Poll: Majority Backs Ditching ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ Rule

By Fred Lucas | February 10, 2010 | 9:51 PM EST

The U.S. military is packing up to leave Iraq, shipping out more than 1.5 million pieces of equipment from tanks to antennas along with a force the size of a small city. (AP File Photo/ Maya Alleruzzo)

(CNSNews.com) – A majority of American voters support allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military but support some restrictions, according to a poll by Quinnipiac University.

A majority of 57 percent believes that homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly in the military, while 66 percent believe not allowing them to do so is discrimination, according to two separate questions in the poll.

President Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union address last month that he would work with Congress and the Department of Defense to end the 1993 “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” rule that lifted the outright ban on gays in the military. The ban was replaced by a rule prohibiting military command to ask and prohibiting military personal from stating they are homosexual. (See Earlier Story)

“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are,” Obama said.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee in favor of repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

The nationwide poll of 2,617 registered voters was conducted from Feb. 2 through Feb. 8 and has a margin of error of 1.9 percentage points. It also found 59 percent in opposition to granting terror suspects civilian trials, and 56 percent support for President Obama’s efforts fighting terrorists in Afghanistan.

But 54 percent to 38 percent of American voters believe homosexuals should face restrictions on exhibiting their sexual orientation on the job.

“By a solid margin, American voters say go ahead and allow gays to openly serve in the military,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Voters think 2-1 that keeping gays from serving is discrimination. But they are much more mixed on exactly how the transformation of the military will occur and how the Pentagon should adjust to the needs of gay soldiers, sailors and Marines.”

Among voters from military households with an active, reserve or veteran in the family, sentiment is nearly even, with 48 percent supporting ending “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” while 47 percent support keeping it.

In the partisan breakdown, Democrats support allowing gays to openly serve by 72 percent to 23 percent. Independents support ending “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” by 56 percent to 37 percent, but a majority of Republicans, by 53 percent majority to 40 percent, support keeping it.

A bare majority of men, 51 percent, support repeal; while 62 percent of women want to repeal the restriction.

The largest majority on this subject, 82 percent, believe the military should stop pursuing disciplinary action against homosexuals who are “outed.” Another 65 percent believes ending the rule will not be divisive or hurt the ability to fight effectively.

Half the voters surveyed believe the Pentagon should not provide benefits for domestic partners of homosexuals serving in the military, while 43 percent believe the Pentagon should.

The closest split, 45-46, came on whether heterosexual personnel should be required to share quarters with homosexual personnel.

“Perhaps surprisingly, there is little difference among age groups on allowing gays to serve openly: 57 percent of those 18 to 34 years old support open service, along with 59 percent of voters 35 to 54 years old and 54 percent of those 55 or older,” Brown said.